will drive next year’s sales.”
Gather conference intelligence in a
disciplined way: Every company in this
study relies heavily on technical and
scientific conferences and tradeshows
for insights into what is coming. Two
companies provide advance training to
their personnel who will be attending these
meetings. This training includes work on
ethics and honesty— while still conducting
conversations that yield a maximum benefit.
Very importantly, conference attendees need
a way to share the intelligence they learned
with all those who need it.
Often use scenario generation to look
“over the horizon,” and identify what
they need to learn: To many in R&D,
periodically generating future scenarios is
key to making sense of market signals they
have detected. Scenario generation and
scenario planning are the most commonly
used techniques these companies use to
look “over the horizon” to detect emerging
market needs and technical or competitor
trends. Three companies use this technique
regularly, usually bringing together both
technical and market-facing personnel (and
often outside experts) to consider potential
Scenario generation is also often an
essential step in the process of listing and
ranking intelligence priorities—determining
what intelligence is needed, and why—and
how that information, if found, could be
expected to inform R&D planning.
Work in cross-regional and inter-echelon
teams to share market intelligence findings:
A number of companies we interviewed
ensure that market-facing teams and technical
teams meet often in formal and ad-hoc
ways to ensure they fully share what each is
looking for in the market (new technologies;
competitor activities; customer need details),
and what they are each finding.
As intelligence is found, it is shared
and discussed in face-to-face and phone
meetings, and in online forums. As one
executive pointed out, “most of our aha’s
come from talking through” findings, rather
than simply reading about them.
Less common but highly effective
practices included the following.
Encourage their R&D team to gather
competitor intelligence: In many
technology-dependent enterprises in our
study, the R&D team handles competitive
intelligence functions within R&D.
Companies in life sciences are best at this.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising.
According to a 2008 study, in the
pharmaceutical industry, the greatest
proportion of Competitive Intelligence (CI)
practice in the pharmaceutical industry is
located within the R&D function (Halliday
et al 1992).
In one large company, a team of
researchers who have technical background
and training in market and competitive
intelligence research, work to scan adjacent
industries and current competitors for both
threats and opportunities that the R&D team
Create and use prioritized lists of what
intelligence is needed: This is often an
enterprise-wide listing of what information
is needed most. Key Intelligence Topics
(KITs) are created through a process that
could start with scenarios where R&D
believes the market is going; what customers
will need; and competitors might do—and
what technologies might be available at a
This activity includes an exercise that
points up where assumptions fall short,
and ends with a plan to gather intelligence
through conference contacts, work with
universities, or collaboration with other
peers. These efforts also help set R&D
priorities and vet R&D projects for initial
funding or continuance.
Use human sources to obtain insights
into market trends: Companies that excel in
developing long-range market forecasts with
confidence all seem to gather intelligence
directly from people. They don’t rely on
published data for their principal insights.
Published information can tell them what
has happened, but only people can tell them
what is planned for the future.
R&D organizations are increasingly under
pressure to provide their companies with
a technical competitive advantage. This
can be done much more effectively when
R&D plans take into account long-range
intelligence about what customers will
likely want; what technology may be able to
deliver, and what technologies competitors
are most likely to employ.
To do this, R&D teams must
intensely collaborate with market facing
organizations—but also must be trained, and
directly involved in the collection of some
aspects of intelligence, especially customer
intelligence. This can take time.
All three types of intelligence—customer,
technical, and competitor—are essential
for scenarios of future technical needs (and
future plans) to be reliable.